It’s approaching two weeks since San Jose’s neighborhood retail strip, Lincoln Avenue has been temporarily painted-up and reconfigured for its “road diet” (also known as a “lane reduction”). In of that, there’s been everything from approval and insight, to constructive and sarcastic criticism. The city’s Willow Glen neighborhood has been planning the project since the year 2009; but, just over the last week (if not months) many residents have become outspoken about the road diet plan. That’s aside from the management of its public outreach, public participation and implementation. And then, there’s the politics.
The last town hall meeting occurred Thursday 12 February with much-vocalized feedback from residents and business owners; that’s before the trial road diet was installed two weeks later, ready to go as of Friday morning 27th February.
The community town hall meeting was hosted by Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA). Chris Roth, known as WGNA’s current President, introduced Tom Trudell of Willow Glen Business Association (WGBA), which managed the event.
Trudell is also chairman of the recently formed Road Diet Working Group; which, so described,
…includes representatives from the neighborhood, the Willow Glen Business Association [WGBA], the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association [WGNA], the Willow Glen Elementary School PTA and other stakeholders was formed to provide feedback to the DOT about the scope and limits of the trial.
Additionally appearing at the town hall meeting (February 12th) were Willow Glen’s Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio (District 6); plus San Jose’s Director of Department of Transportation (DOT), Hans Larsen.
A BRIEF LOOK BACK AT THE ISSUES:
As previously covered by de·Anza Post, (1) the road diet’s trial run is now underway from about March 1st into May; but, (2) the triumvirate that controls the agenda received feedback and criticism from the public during its last informational town hall meeting.
The last summary of discussion points that was made by de·Anza Post is sourced from what was heard offline and in-person at the proceedings of the 12th February town hall meeting.
GOING FORWARD: OFFLINE VERSUS ONLINE CONSIDERATIONS:
Still, there is more to consider; such as with information and feedback that is sourced online. Over the last months (but especially over the last week) there’s more to be seen at websites and social networking applications (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), aside from other instruments.
Many of those offline (in person) complaints, made back on 12 February, are contrasted with the online interactions, during the three weeks (to about almost a month) thereafter.
Offline, it was said by residents…
Online, at a Facebook public group page, some upfront frustration was expressed by Tim Mulcahy, WG Business Association President…
So we have a traffic problem coming form the south. And it comes right through WG. And we all know it’s getting worse month by month, house by house being built-in the South Valley. Well if you don’t like what’s being pursued right now, come up with something to make WG a safer place with less traffic. Lots of comments but very few suggestions. [Willow Glen Neighbors, Tuesday 3 March at 9:35pm]…[minor punctuation added for clarity][…re-interjecting just minutes later] Reducing Lincoln to one lane from the Expressway is the answer. Making downtown WG more convenient for commuters. Really. But what about the growing traffic issues? [Willow Glen Neighbors, Tuesday 3 March at 9:55pm]
ADDRESS FROM NEIGHBORHOOD LEADERS:
Representing the triumvirate that makes the Road Diet Work Group (RDWG), Mulcahy has probably been the most visible and outspoken online presence; aside from Richard Zappelli, a relative outsider to the RDWG, but who’s maintained continuity as chairperson to Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village (a.k.a, Stakeholders SGV).
Zappelli has been involved with the road diet from when the project began, as early as the year 2009, which was actually under the direction of Stakeholders SGV. He was also President of WGNA and a liaison to WGBA, working with either Tim or his brother Michael Mulcahy.
So, Mulcahy, but namely Zappelli, represent the progression of the road diet; which is aside from their working with Hans Larsen at San Jose’s Department of Transportation (DOT).
ADDRESSING WILLOW GLEN PLANNING AREA & COUNCIL DISTRICT:
Pierluigi Oliverio, Willow Glen’s District 6 council member, appeared at the February 12th town meeting but has (so far) not had much to say online about the road diet. In fact, at his Facebook page, Oliverio has not posted anything about the Lincoln Avenue road diet since 13 November 2014. That was a shared Mercury News article, referencing a WGBA meeting.
Ironically, as of February 23 at 3:52pm, Oliverio made a post that links to San Jose’s “Audit of Street Pavement Maintenance“; but, he still made no particular reference to Lincoln Avenue… or (for that matter) any of Willow Glen Planning Area‘s particular neighborhood streets. Readers of the councilmember’s Facebook Page were probably nonplussed by his statement:
If you ever ponder the topic of road paving in San Jose, attached you will find [a] report from the City Auditor. (84 pages of fun plus an interactive map where you can input your address and see street conditions in your neighborhood)
Navigating through Oliverio’s extraneous online reference (aside from the more pertinent ones, not cited), is not exactly “fun.” Although, he was possibly making a facetious quip. Indeed, a good part of the problem with the online resources, especially as regards the Lincoln Road Diet, is that it can seem rather complicated.
Residents can search on the internet (Google, Yahoo!Bing, etc) for opinions and perspectives; but, finding correct or appropriate information can be daunting… not so much as a “put on,” but a real “put off.”
Nevertheless, Oliverio is mentioned in a press release that’s posted at WGBA’s website. It’s said that…
“District 6 Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio proposed that the City of San José Department of Transportation (DOT) implement a trial road diet on Lincoln Avenue in Spring 2015.”Click here to read a press release about the Road Diet Trial.
DISTRICT POLITICS & NEIGHBORHOOD PLANNING:
That press release quotes Oliverio, while having Willow Glen Neighborhood Association’s (WGNA) Treasurer, Peter Allen, as its contact.
While Oliverio and Allen remain at arm’s length for much of the more heated issues regarding the road diet, that memo is one example that hints at the electoral politics that has entered the “road diet” discussion. It may not seem related or pertinent at first thought, but it’s actually an underlying theme; that’s since “public safety” was a central issue for San Jose’s 2014 mayoral election, namely centering from the Willow Glen neighborhood.
PUBLIC FORUM(S) & SOCIOPOLITICAL INTERACTION:
The way matters are currently orchestrated and put into a posture, Oliverio, Allen and Roth can now frame the project and its discussion in a different forum from before the 2014 mayoral election, but also anticipating election year 2016 talking points. That’s while using different online technological devices (i.e. social networks, blogs, websites, email apps, online documents, etc.) that are variously segmented under socio-political, as well as commercial and private domains. In that sense, they are choosing what they politically — and publicly — address, as well as what they ignore.
More than that, information has become, to a certain degree, targeted, if not with privileged access and address. It’s carried out and diverted on various internet pages and electronic devices, either closed or open format. As will be pointed out later, what’s been created is a labyrinth of sorts. Residents can get lost, if they’re not an “insider” to business affairs and politics in the community; or, (by another example) if they are not subscribing to, or savvy with, social networking media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.). Of course, the social networking applications require a subscription to access; but, can also be further privileged by “sharing” parameters (via application settings and options).
POLITICAL “COUP” AT WILLOW GLEN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION:
Both Chris Roth and Peter Allen came to represent WGNA within the RDWG, since it was back in May 2014 that both of them orchestrated what’s essentially been called a “coup” (or seizure of power) at the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association; that’s as described by Willow Glen attorney Steve Kline at his blog, The Left Hook.
Kline was a District 6 candidate back in the election of June 5, 2012 , but had this to say back on 15 July 2014, prior to the midterm San Jose Mayoral election:
Another youthful prospect is Chris Roth. He opened a Facebook political page over a year ago and is requesting likes. A member of the Library Commission, many believe him to be the heir apparent to the Oliverio legacy as he is often seen in consultative talks with Oliverio confidant, Terry Reilly. He assisted Peter Allen with the recent WGNA coup and is very much working every room.
TURF WARFARE & MEAN-STREET POLITICS:
But, if you haven’t figured as such yet, Kline was actually Oliverio’s former electoral adversary in 2012. So, when he lost that race, it’s been wondered if he will again be a candidate in 2016? That’s aside from his critique of these other persons (and still more) in the above reference.
The crowd of other persons includes several others with political aspirations; whereas, they may not always be as visible, but they are certainly “at large” and observing from behind the scenes and within the social network. Whereas, that’s aside from what’s literally on the main street called Lincoln Avenue. For some people downtown Willow Glen is “charming” and a place to meet and be seen; but for others it can be “mean” and a place to avoid annoyance and confrontation. Even amongst social, business and political leaders, downtown Willow Glen (and its surrounding residences) have become a more competitive, more central, more conspicuous place for neighborhood life (if not that of all San Jose). Either it’s “your” scene or its “their” scene… a figurative “us versus them.”
LOOKING AT (AND BEYOND) THE BORDERS:
Further behind the history of this “scene” is current County Supervisor Ken Yeager, formerly the original District 6 Candidate before all these others, representing the interests of BAYMEC, the four-county Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgendered (LGBT) political action group. Kline and District 4 candidate, Tim Orozco, are both BAYMEC (or LGBT) candidates. That’s to which both Oliverio and Allen have again been positioned in opposition, as they work both District 6 and 4 against the LGBT candidates.
Peter Allen is not just working within Willow Glen’s District 6, such as with Oliverio, Roth and so on; but, also representing District 4’s candidate Manh Nguyen against BAYMEC’s Tim Orozco.
MEAN STREETS TO LIVABLE STREETS: RECLAIMING “PUBLIC SAFETY”:
Bringing these issues back to public safety and the streets, BAYMEC’s current President is James Gonzales, simultaneously a board member of the San Jose Police Officer’s Association (SJPOA). Over the last year, Gonzales has been a leading and outspoken public figure on LGBT issues but also appearing in Willow Glen and on the nightly news in regards to public safety, pension reforms, and labor issues.
Oliverio, Roth, Allen, and others represent those interests that supported Mayor Sam Liccardo in in his last election against Dave Cortese; therein, representing both the anti-labor and pension reform initiative and an anti-gay/anti-same-sex-marriage stance, typical of former Mayor Chuck Reed’s political legacy.
Although Gonzales appreciates Liccardo’s seemingly more friendly stance towards the LGBT community, comparatively to Reed’s, he still appears in opposition to Liccardo and these others on issues of public safety, labor and pension reform. And that difference stands out, even though candidates may appear congenial with each other in “selfie” pictures across the online social network. They appear to be agreeing on some issues, while disagreeing on others. Or just wanting to be perceived front-and-center, at whatever is seen in the public interest.
STREET TALK v. TALKING POINTS; GRASS ROOTS v. LOBBYING:
Mostly, Peter Allen has taken the title at WGNA, while also doing marketing work for WGBA, writing such press releases via his consulting company, Peter Allen Media. He simultaneously represents political committees and candidates, plus has deeper connections to more controversial lobbying, such as with his older ties to Walmart’s Jude Barry, founder of Catapult Strategies.
Roth and Allen’s takeover of WGNA and their position at the RDWG seemingly put them front-and-center of the road diet and public safety issues, much to Councilmember Oliverio’s public agenda; therein, co-opting it from its inception within Stakeholders SGV. Whereas, Oliverio, Roth, and Allen don’t have the early history of the project, aside from the inner workings at WGNA.
When both Roth and Allen took over WGNA, they were informed by its former President (Richard Zappelli), that he no longer wanted to be associated with WGNA or remain a representative on its board. Zappelli referred to WGNA bylaws regarding conflicts of interest and so on; specifically distancing himself from the politics. It took them a while to remove Zappelli’s name from the website and so on, but they’ve since continued without him, despite a letter of protest and resignation.
BUZZ, TWEET & SOUND OFF:
Allen is also a member of the RDWG, but mostly “tweets” from his personal Twitter handle, not yet having much to say about its business at large in the Twitter and Facebook world. While sitting on the RDWG, his role therein began only as of November 2014 and that’s really the extent of his road diet experience in Willow Glen.
That can also be said of Chris Roth, WGNA’s current President, who also joined the RDWG as of November 2014, the same time as Peter Allen. Roth does indeed tweet and makes Facebook posts about the road diet from his personal online accounts (Twitter and Facebook), but they’re mostly non-technical and he’s also remained at arm’s length from controversial issues on the social media. Leaving the technical and heated business instead to Tim Mulcahy‘s online comments, Roth’s tweets and posts are comparatively easygoing and simple.
WGNA & SOUNDS OF THE URBAN ECOLOGY:
Traditionally, WGNA has been led by sharp-witted, technical leaders that will articulate on behalf of the community; whereas, the organization represented the greater Willow Glen Planning Area‘s interest, being able to stand independent of conflicting interests in politics and commerce. In fact, WGNA was founded just over 40 years ago as a grass-roots response to city hall and the city’s transportation and planning department. Those actions occurred around the likes of Willow Glen High School, whereas, today, the road diet includes advocacy around Willow Glen Elementary (at one end of the Lincoln at Minnesota Avenues) and River Glen Schools (at the opposite side of Lincoln Avenue at Broadway, closer to Willow Street).
Ironically, WGNA’s formative days and initiative began around Cherry Avenue meets Dry Creek Road. As stated at WGNA’ Facebook Page, “The fight on Cherry Avenue and Dry Creek Road took place in May 1973, as an initiative that WGNA won against San Jose City Hall to keep the street to two lanes, instead of four; that is, working against what could have had devastating impact on the neighborhood. ” Back then, Cherry Avenue continued all the way from the Almaden neighborhood, into Willow Glen.
Now as of year 2014/2015, WGNA is seemingly overturning that history, breaching its original bylaws with a conflict of interest between Oliverio and Chris Roth. The Lincoln Avenue road diet from 2009-2015 can be compared to the Cherry Avenue debate years ago; but, the lines between WGNA, WGBA, and the City have now been blurred and compromised, no longer representing independent entities.
As further quoted from the Facebook page “The original activists of WGNA in the early-1970’s had similar values as older residents; as they cared about family values and community projects; but, WGNA’s leadership was interested in social change, human rights, protecting the environment, regulating big business and controlling urban sprawl. ”
That’s no longer the case.
BASE AND NETWORK:
When residents submit their concerns and feedback to Oliverio, Roth, Allen, or the RDWG in general, they are intermingled with this conflict of interest. That did not exist before May 2015, when Roth and Allen took over the organization.
It was announced that information about the Lincoln Avenue road diet and its meetings can be found online; but, that’s a confusing hunt . Information should be found at the website http://willowglenroaddiet.com/; as well as the hashtag #LincolnRoadDiet (in social network applications like Facebook and Twitter); but, those sources were misleadingly stated at the last town hall meeting.
Furthermore, the triumvirate has created a labyrinth of sorts that navigates through various domains and sources, so as to find the sought-after, long-awaited information.
Instead of filling the website with a hodgepodge of articles, WGNA and WGBA could simply provide a button or widget that is clearly visible and anchored at the top (or sidebar) of their website. That way, when people sign on to the homepage, they can immediately go here for RDWG minutes.
In the first week thereafter, the official report (or “minutes“) from the “town meeting” at 6:30pm on Thursday, February 12th were not posted at the newly created “Willow Glen Road Diet” website, nor even at the WGBA and WGNA websites. Not even an internet search (such as from Google or Yahoo!) would bring anything of relevance from the City of San Jose, either. Moreover, the social networking hashtag had not really served to dig up much information…. at least not from WGNA and WGBA.
While there’s information available online, it’s still somewhat of a confusing affair. Although speakers from WGNA and WGBA claimed that they will also be getting the word out via their email lists and social media pages, they do not point to the exact spot. Going to the Facebook Page of Willow Glen Business Association (a.k.a. “Downtown Willow Glen), a post refers the matter to Willow Glen Neighborhood Association, the host of the last community meeting; but, that’s while simultaneously pointing people to Willow Glen Charm and the“Willow Glen Road Diet” websites. From there, you have to read several of the diverse pages and sources to get the desired information.
In turn, the Facebook Page for WGNA (the neighborhood association) refers its readers to either a closed online bulletin board at Google Docs, known as “Lincoln Avenue Road Diet Comments“; or, again, to the “Willow Glen Road Diet” website.
The Google Docs site is there for people to submit feedback; however, its comments are not openly posted “as (it) is” received by and submitted from the public. Instead, comments are received by WGNA via a closed and private online form that is privately submitted (“entre nous“). Those comments are then reviewed and redacted (edited).
Next, WGNA publishes select comments; but, again, from yet another different web link. That means, not from the same place where comments are submitted to and received by WGNA.
So, in that first week (or more), where could the public find these redacted comments?
Readers can navigate through several websites, social networking devices, as well as page after page, if not post after post of information. Ultimately, that link can be found buried in one of the articles at WGNA’s website. They are, specifically, by document:
Indeed, there is a “Road Diet” page (or tab) at WGNA’s website; but to find pertinent and sought-after information, readers have to scroll through several articles, all sorted by date of posting.
But, oddly enough, WGNA says at their website:
“To help residents, business owners, and the general community stay up to date on the layout, timeline, and other important information regarding the upcoming road diet trial on Lincoln Avenue, the Road Diet Working Group has created an all-in-one website at www.WillowGlenRoadDiet.com.”
Likewise, at WGBA —the business association’s website — information about the road diet is hidden under a tab that reads “About Willow Glen.” Hovering over that tab, you will see pages for “Road Diet Trial.” That leads to the same confusing hash of links to what’s found at WGNA. But, again, something is missing and unsaid…
Where were the minutes from the February 12th Road Diet town meeting?
Greg Barr, a member of WGBA (the downtown Willow Glen business association) had instead posted minutes from the February 12th Road Diet community meeting at Willow Glen Charm, a privately held website (blog) — plus a Facebook page — that is owned by his wife. “The Charm” website is co-branded with Holly Barr’s local real estate practice, to which husband Greg Barr (apparently) helps out.
“ON THE SAME PAGE” (?):
When looking for information, the question then becomes: which should be regarded as the “official” minutes, or be pointed to and regarded as the public record? Is the public — made of both local businesses and residents — all “on the same page,” either literally or figuratively? It would seem not… leading to many variations of the “truth” or official business.
What’s more, who is really the lead here? Between the pages, where’s the actual accountability?
Willow Glen Charm is technically not part of the triumvirate that is managing the Lincoln Avenue road diet program. The Charm is seemingly not even a registered business, but merely a public relations device for the Holly Barr real estate practice. It is (“charmingly”) promoted as a service to the community.
But, somehow the business of the RDWG, WGNA, WGBA and the public interest has been commingled with that of private commercial interests and promotions. Although Greg Barr is a WGBA board member; as a self-described “marketing communicator,” he’s directing people to Willow Glen Charm, which is not a responsible party with here said road diet comments or other RDWG business.
Hypocritically, that’s while Stakeholders SGV is kept out of the mix, whereas its “position papers” (regarding the road diet) are not published or included as suggestions and consultations to the RDWG, WGNA or WGBA websites, and other devices.
ONCE UPON A TIME…. (HOW THE STORY BEGAN):
It’s been several years in the making since Lincoln Avenue was proposed for a road diet (lane reduction). Plans began as early as 2009, when a neighborhood group, known as Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village (aka Stakeholders SGV), was formed with the task in mind. As noted at its blog, the group consisted of two members from the Willow Glen Business Association (WGBA), two from Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA) and one from Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.
Additional members joined with Stakeholders SGV at a later time, including San Jose’s Deputy Fire Chief, Deputy Police Chief, Willow Glen Community Center’s manager and so on. The Road Diet has been central to Lincoln Avenue’s traffic calming issues.
Stakeholders SGV’s Chairperson, Richard Zappelli, as well as fellow members, submitted a position paper on 11 December 2009 to Michael Brilliot, Envision San Jose 2040 Task Force. The letter introduced the idea of a road diet, including its subject, “Bicycle-Pedestrian friendly Lincoln Avenue.”
ORIGINAL SIGNERS TO ROAD DIET PLAN:
Original signers that launched the Lincoln Avenue Road diet (as of 11 December 2009) were:
This letter can also be seen online at the City of San Jose’s planning department, here; or featured in the below.
By the way, Senigalia has a personal connection to the girl who’s mother’s life was taken at Lincoln and Auzerais Avenues, back in June 2013. Although the site of the accident is currently out of bounds of the current road diet test area, no improvements have been made at this intersection, even as of the year 2015.
At the time the road diet plans began, Richard Zappelli, was also President of Willow Glen Neighborhood Association, although he has since termed-out after nine years on the WGNA Board. As of May 2014, Richard Zappelli is no longer affiliated with WGNA but continues with Stakeholders SGV.
THE OUTSIDER, ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Now in his 70s in age, Zappelli is long retired, but perfectly happy going about town on his bicycle… at the side of the road, appropriately in a bike lane as everyone hurries past and makes snarky comments. He’s known for riding along town, wearing his poor boy cap (atop his head).
But, the ironies and tragedies all along his work at these grass-roots projects (and his commitment thereof) continues to manifest itself… sometimes troublesome. They are not merely academic or political considerations, but of personal significance. He actually lives it. As written from the blog at Stakeholders, he…
In his latest position paper, addressed to Mulcahy, WGBA and the RDWG, Zappelli also recalls:
…happened to be sitting at the window of Dolcetto Cafe and Market (at the Corner of Lincoln and Minnesota Avenues), when he heard screams from an auto and pedestrian related accident.
That event occurred as of 23 January 2015, before the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet test had gone underway (months later, 1 March 2015).
In this happenstance, Mr. Zappelli was able to take photographs of the event, only then to realize, later, that the victim is the daughter of family friends.
She is a student of Willow Glen Middle School.
A parent who was also hit by a motorist, when getting out from a parallel parked car to go pick-up her child from River Glen Schooll. She was found lying in the street by a school child that came running inside to tell the school’s principle (when in conference with myself). This accident happened during the same month and in the same area….
From the position paper, Zappelli was also referring to an above paragraph, wherein he stated:
A River Glen School student who was hit by a car here, last year 2014, while walking to school. The young individual was hit from behind, when a car jumped the curb and came to rest on the sidewalk. This is very close to the corner of the intersecting streets.
Its has been witnessed many times — sometimes firsthand — a repetition of events… continually ignored. Up until May 2014, all the photographs archived at the WGNA Facebook page are his own; as that’s including all the photographs of accidents and collisions at Lincoln Avenue.
TAKING POSSESSION, TURNING THE PAGE… MOVING ON:
At that, both Roth and Allen (and 2nd Vice President – Mayra Flores De Marcotte) have restricted Zappelli’s access and participation on that Page, even though the vast majority of content — and public following — was created by him.
Allen and De Marcotte had access to the WGNA Facebook and Twitter accounts since they were (merely) advising members of WGNA’s media committee; although, (as President) Zappelli technically had responsible control of all media, as defined and required by WGNA’s bylaws. (By the way, the board member that primarily did the work of setting up WGNA’s website at WGNA.net has also long resigned from the organization).
After a contested online election at WGNA, however, Allen and De Marcotte transferred control to Chris Roth.
Meanwhile, to this day, some residents continue to debate the road diet (and other neighborhood issues) online at social networks, like those at Facebook Pages including Willow Glen Charm, Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA), Willow Glen Business Association (a.k.a. WGBA or Downtown Willow Glen).
But, the most heated debates are nowadays probably happening at Willow Glen Neighbors, a “public group” at Facebook that appears to be independent of these other interests. Even Mulcahy, Gregg Barr, and Zappelli are off their own respective pages and appearing here, carrying the discussion at this other forum… So far, it’s a common ground of sorts. Chris Roth was seen recently (as of March 2015) making confrontation with Richard Zappelli; but, he apparently has since been removed (voluntarily or otherwise), deleting his comments in that motion. (Zappelli’s responses thereof still stand, as last seen).
ONE MORE THING…
Zappelli may seem disheartened at the lack of gravitas he sees at large, but he is not satisfied or rested with the results. The latest position paper, as already mentioned in the above, includes initiatives and advocacy with his longtime fellow stakeholders at both Willow Glen Elementary and River Glen Schools.
This is where he has continued with the National Safe Routes to School programs, Walk and Bike to School; but, also where he calls for improved crosswalks, road diet adjustments and, more specifically, bulb-out (curb extensions) at the intersections of both schools (Minnesota & Lincoln, as well as at Broadway & Lincoln).
Councilmember Oliverio and WGBA are still considering.